How to Find the Right 12-step Sponsor

How to Find the Right 12-step Sponsor

Whether you’re coming out of an addiction treatment program or coming down off your last high, joining a 12-step program is a great asset for recovery. Participating in 12-step meetings can provide the support, encouragement, and accountability you need to stay sober for the long term. People familiar with 12-step programs such as AA and NA know that most people have a sponsor. A sponsor is like a personal mentor for recovery. He or she is someone who can guide you through the steps, give you advice, and be there for you when you don’t think you can stay sober. A sponsor can be a big help in recovery but people are often unsure about how to go about choosing a sponsor. Here are some tips for finding the right sponsor for you.

There’s no rush.

First, there’s no rush to get a sponsor. Don’t feel like you have to ask someone to be your sponsor the first week you attend meetings. Some people go months or years without a sponsor and some never get a sponsor at all. You don’t need a sponsor for the program to work but it helps many people stay on track. Think of it this way, if you want to learn to play the guitar, you can teach yourself a few chords and scales and learn a few songs. However, at any point in this process, you can learn much more quickly if you find a good teacher who can guide your efforts and challenge you to try new things. It’s the same with a sponsor. You can get a lot out of showing up to meetings and working the steps but you can get even more out of working with someone who has been through it already.

Get to know the people in your 12-step group.

If you decide you want a sponsor, start by getting to know the people in your group. It’s best to find someone you know through 12-step participation rather than just random people you meet. This way, you can get input from other members who know the person. You can get to know the people in your group by participating more. Come a few minutes early and stay after to socialize. You won’t get to talk to people very much during the formal meetings. It’s also a good idea to volunteer to set up or clean up. This puts you in more contact with longer-standing members and you can get a sense of who might make a good sponsor.

Choose someone of whichever sex you’re not attracted to.

It’s typically recommended that you choose a sponsor of whichever sex you’re not attracted to. You don’t want to complicate the mentor-mentee relationship with romantic feelings. It’s also best for people starting out in recovery to avoid new romantic relationships in general, since they’re in a vulnerable position and need to focus on recovery for a while. 

Find someone who has experience in recovery.

The next qualification you want to look for is that your sponsor has a bit of experience of recovery. Typically, they should have at least a year and have worked all the steps, but this is the minimum. You might end up feeling conflicted, disappointed, or let down if your sponsor relapses, which does happen. To minimize this risk, it’s better to find someone who has at least five years of sobriety, at which point relapse risk falls considerably. The more experience your sponsor has in recovery, the better guidance he or she will be able to give. Also consider whether your prospective sponsor has sponsored or is sponsoring others. Succeeding in recovery yourself does not necessarily require the same skill set as mentoring others. If someone has sponsored others who still have a strong recovery, that’s a great sign. Talk to those other people, if you can, to get a sense of whether you want to work with someone. 

Make sure it’s someone with time for you.

Although a good track record of sponsoring others is a promising sign, it’s also important that a potential sponsor has time to give you adequate attention. If the person is already sponsoring several people who are still just starting in recovery, he or she might not have time for you, even if that person would otherwise make a good sponsor. Similarly, someone with a lot of work or family commitments, especially someone who has young children or has to travel a lot, may not be there when you need him. You may have to make this determination for yourself. A potential sponsor may be reluctant to refuse you, so if someone seems to have a lot going on, you might consider a different candidate. 

Your sponsor should be a recovery role model.

Your sponsor should be someone who has the kind of recovery you would like to have. In other words, they should be positive about recovery feel good about life. They don’t have to be a perfect image of who you want to be in five or ten years but in terms of how strong their recovery is and their general attitude toward life, they should represent something you can aspire to. If you’re following your sponsor’s map, you will probably end up in about the same place.

Your sponsor should be someone you can talk to.

One mistake people often make when choosing a sponsor is to think they should pick someone who is like themselves or someone they can be friends with. In reality, you can probably learn a lot more from someone who is different from you and someone who makes a good friend may not make a good mentor. What is important, though, is that you feel like your sponsor is someone you can talk to–someone who will listen. Your sponsor can’t understand your recovery issues if she doesn’t listen to you. Recovery is always an individual path and rigid prescriptions generally don’t work. Also, this is someone you’ll have to call when you’re feeling down and fighting the temptation to drink or use drugs. If you dread the thought of calling your sponsor, you’re less likely to reach out for help when you need it. 

At Patrick Hart Consultants, we provide a number of different services to fit the needs of each individual client. Among these, are helping you choose a treatment provider, helping you develop a treatment plan, helping you establish post-treatment support, and ensuring continuity among the different elements of treatment. Contact us today at 844-262-7970 or or explore our website for more information.

AUTHOR: Hart Consultants